Workers for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion have begun activities in Clearwater and a spokesperson said at this point the company is just setting up the temporary workers’ accommodation site.
The site is being constructed near the Eco-Depot on Camp 2 Road, and employees there are continuing with grading and excavation, stockpiling soil, grinding brush piles from clearing and installing security fences.
“There are currently 45 people in the Clearwater region working, with half working in the field and half working at the temporary worker accommodation site,” said Ali Hounsell, Trans Mountain spokesperson.
“We’re very aware that in Clearwater, it was impacted by the mill closure, and so we’re encouraging people that may have that equipment or capacity to make sure they let us know who they are and what kind of availability they have.
“We’re still asking for local contractors or vendors to register on our procurement registry, which is on our website (transmountain.com), and that’s what we use to do our day to day hiring for our contractors.”
Trans Mountain has a commitment to local, Indigenous and regional hiring, she said, though it’s different in each community depending on what the capacity of workers is, what equipment people have, and what their availability is.
Hounsell added the project is still on track for some of the early work like locating utilities, which should begin in May, and is used to identify existing utilities above ground and below. Crews will be sent to sweep the area to confirm the location of utilities before construction and this will inform construction planning and confirm construction techniques planned in the area.
The temporary worker accommodations site is also on track for completion in July and Hounsell said actual pipeline construction is expected to start shortly after that with work like right-of-way clearing.
When the construction activity is at its peak in the Clearwater area there’ll be roughly 550 workers in the temporary accommodation site, and this may raise some concerns when taking the social distancing due to COVID-19 into account.
Hounsell added Trans Mountain is continuously assessing the latest health advice and working to make sure the company is following directions from the government and health officials.
“We have very specific things we’re doing that ensure we’re able to continue construction in line with all the health measures,” she said.
“(We’re) making sure we follow the social distancing guidelines, and some of the things we’re doing around that are staggering work shifts to minimize the number of people at a given site, and staggering lunch and coffee breaks to minimize the amount of people gathering.”
Trans Mountain is also reducing or eliminating in-person meetings, improving its cleaning and sanitation protocols, and is also looking at how the company transports people to and from the sites.
In some of the other places under construction, Hounsell said workers are transported by bus so they can’t bring their own vehicles to the sites.
“A large part, of course, is making sure everyone there is well aware of the rules and that we’re maintaining that on a daily basis,” she said.
“It’s an ongoing process that we’re continuing to monitor and adjust to ensure we’re meeting all the health and government guidelines.”
According to Trans Mountain, the expansion project will twin the existing pipeline that runs from Strathcona County, Alta., to Burnaby, B.C. and will increase its oil capacity from approximately 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day.